Lineups for the day:
Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 28, 2015
Welcome back Alex Hassan! The waiver-claim veteran is making his first start since recovering from a hamstring injury suffered earlier in Spring Training. He joins Burns and Fuld in the outfield today as the completely revamped A's take on the significantly improved White Sox. The A's currently sit at 16-9-2, good for the most wins in Spring Training in both leagues! (In comparison, the Angels are 13-9 and the Mariners are 10-13.) And while it's been drilled into our heads repeatedly that Spring Training doesn't matter, it's still nice to see our new amalgamation of players working together well - and Melvin concurs.
Melvin notes good home record (10-1) - #Athletics also have top record in majors - says that is especially important with so many new guys.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) March 28, 2015
It's also late enough in Spring Training to see quite a few regulars playing for both sides, so the first couple innings should be a preview of coming attractions. If Kazmir can handle a 1-2-3 of Eaton/Melky/Abreu now, he can handle them in the regular season too. Also, wow. That's a pretty potent top of the lineup. The White Sox seem to be using their real roster today, so obviously the A's represent a strong enough opponent to do some testing against. Cool.
Venditte is slated to come in as relief for Kazmir, so warm up both your clapping hands appropriately. Hopefully, he doesn't suffer the same fate as last game - umpires really don't seem to like this dude. PitchFX could absolutely back up that claim, but we won't have that evidence until the regular season. And make no mistake - we should be seeing Venditte at some point this season, whether he breaks camp with the club or not. He's very clearly shown that he's more than a sideshow gimmick, and looks to be a useful 'utility reliever,' whether he comes in as a LOOGY, ROOGY, or a longman.
Players to watch:
Billy Burns enters hitting .345/.409/.483, so expect him to do something out of the leadoff spot. Hopefully that something isn't getting thrown out by ex-Athletic Geovany Soto, who still represents the "what could have been" from The Wildcard Game™. Burns has been making the most of Spring Training, carrying on the spirit and tenacity of Jerry Blevins for the Athletics.
Tyler Ladendorf is playing 3B today, continuing to showcase his value as a utility player - doesn't hurt to have Zobrist around to give him some pointers. He's also quietly batting .306/.306/.449, so him hitting in the 5-hole isn't as egregious as it originally seems. All reports say he is the leader for making the Opening Day roster, and any production he puts up today certainly adds to those chances.
Marcus Semien enters with a more-than-respectable line of .306/.370/.510, but continues to field fielding questions, as many fans seem to question his long-term shortstop capabilities. However, a basic eye test reveals he's still much better defensively than ex-SS Jed Lowrie, so it might be worth just accepting a somewhat limited arm in exchange for a guy who appears to line up as one of the better offensive shortstops in baseball.
Pat Venditte again, just because he's freakin' rad, yo. I know we're all sick of the media circus around him, but he's been stellar performance-wise. (I'll shut up about him now.)
Other A's updates, courtesy of the Twitterverse:
Freiman, like Reddick, Parker, Griffin, Nolin (sports hernia), Taylor Thompson (shoulder strain) will stay here at extended spring training.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) March 28, 2015
The Breakfast Club of A's injuries will band together and come out stronger than ever in an extended Spring Training stint - hopefully with more dancing. In the meantime, expect AJ Griffin's soothing guitar twangs to keep the peace while everyone gets themselves ready to compete over the course of the season.
Melvin says Crisp targeted for game on Tuesday. If he isn't ready by then it's possible he will be a DL candidate. But Tues sounds likely.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) March 28, 2015
Hey, Coco is hurt and there's no real timetable. This sounds unfortunately familiar. With the possibility of both Coco and Reddick missing Opening Day, expect to see quite a bit of Burns and Ladendork for the first week or two.
Zito gets the start so the Angels don't get a look at Gray. There's an ulterior motive in play as well, since showcasing Zito for a trade is more than practical. There's still that wistful 5% chance he makes the roster somehow, dangling just out of reach for a good portion of the A's fanbase. Unfortunately for the romantics, Zito will most certainly be pitching in the majors somewhere else this season, as #Hicket seems to be suggesting. Getting a good young player back in a trade might be the last way that Zito helps out the Green and Gold.
That's it for right now, so let's just thank whatever diety you believe in that Hawk Harrelson isn't announcing this game and PLAY SOME BASEBALL!
It is Hawk announcing on MLB Network. I'm so, so, so sorry.